Global Center sculpture exhibit calls attention to Darfur
Two continents are united through sculpture in the FedEx Global Education Center’s latest exhibit.
“Toward Greater Awareness: Darfur and American Activism” showcases the artwork of contemporary sculptor Mitch Lewis.
The art focuses on the recent genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan as well as the American coverage of the conflict.
Each of the sculptures depicts a different human figure. They are figurative interpretations of the atrocities in Darfur rather than literal depictions.
Laura Griest, manager of global events and exhibitions at the center, said that though the center often hosts art exhibits, this is the first that features sculpture.
She said the center’s selection committee accepted Lewis’ proposal for the show last year.
Since then, the center has been working with the artist to put the exhibit together.
“It has been a real joy working with him,” Griest said in an email.
Lewis graduated from Pratt Institute in New York City and did graduate work at East Carolina University.
He began working on pieces dealing with Darfur after a career in mostly commercial art and was awarded by the Save Darfur Coalition and the Puffin Foundation.
“I never really realized how powerful art was until I put this exhibit together,” he said.
Lewis said he created his sculptures because he wants to inform people about the conflict in Darfur.
“Most people really had no idea of what was happening,” he said. “The way to stop these things is by a lot of people speaking out.”
Bereket Selassie, professor of law and African studies at UNC, said the exhibit is essential to the conversation about the conflict.
“It is a visual representation of genocide,” he said.
The sculptures are created from mainly natural materials. Wood and terracotta make up most of the textural figures.
Lewis said his purpose in putting together the exhibit was to combine art and social involvement.
“Any of the arts can really reach people on such a strong emotional level and encourage them to take social action,” Lewis said.
He also said that social activism is part of the artist’s role in general.
“It is important that we use art to try to make the world a better place,” Lewis said.
In line with this philosophy, Lewis is sharing his exhibit with UNC for free. It will travel next to Hempstead, N.Y., to the Hofstra University Museum on Long Island.
Griest said that art exhibits at the center usually attract diverse audiences and receive mixed responses from the public.
“Art is subjective — therefore individuals will absorb the art in various ways,” she said.
She also said the center always tries to convey a message and a story behind the art it features.
“This show, perhaps more than any other we’ve hosted, will challenge the viewer.”
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